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Governor-in-waiting Paterson protested eminent domain in 2005, but quiet since

Now that Lieutenant Governor David Paterson is poised to take the governorship Monday upon Eliot Spitzer's official resignation, expect more talk about his past stance against eminent domain (which I missed when writing about him Tuesday).

A 7/29/05 New York Sun brief, headlined STATE SENATE LEADER CALLS FOR MORATORIUM ON USE OF EMINENT DOMAIN, reported:
At a rally on the steps of City Hall yesterday, a State Senate leader, David Paterson, a Democrat, along with a small gathering of Harlem civic leaders and three City Council members, called for a state-wide blanket moratorium on the use of eminent domain following the recent Supreme Court decision that is widely interpreted as expanding the law’s reach.

Actually, the controversial Kelo v. New London decision merely reaffirmed--through with far more public notice--existing doctrine that "public use" could be interpreted as "public purpose," including increased tax revenues.

Also present was City Council Member Letitia James, the leading political opponent of the Atlantic Yards project. However, Paterson's posture was mainly against Columbia University’s expansion plan, within his 30th Senate District, now reprsented by Bill Perkins, who as City Council majority leader also joined the press conference.

No "gold rush" yet

Has there been a “gold rush” of eminent domain use across the state, as Paterson warned? That's hardly clear. However, there may well have been abuses of eminent domain--or the threat thereof.

Eminent domain has not yet been used for projects like Columbia's expansion and Atlantic Yards, though it has certainly played a role in settlements made by property owners and it still may be used.

On the agenda?

Will the issue be on Paterson's agenda? Maybe somewhere, but it's hard to think it's a priority. After all, he was willing to shelve any rhetoric regarding the subject when he became Lieutenant Governor.

Perkins has maintained his opposition, writing in a 9/16/07 New York Times op-ed:
Clearly we need to shift our thinking about the appropriate use of eminent domain. Unfortunately, we’ve become comfortable slanting the law in favor of the “big guy’s” interests over those of the “little guy.”

Comments

  1. The purely technical observation in this post that “Eminent domain has not yet been used for projects like Columbia's expansion and Atlantic Yards, though it has certainly played a role in settlements made by property owners and it still may be used” points to what should be highlighted as a very troubling concern.

    As a practical matter, there is virtually no difference between the use of eminent domain and use of the threat of eminent domain. That people so often get away with passing off the technical distinction indicates how successful the “omerta” has been that is enforced by gag order agreements when eminent domain is used by developers through threat. Back in the days when eminent domain was done by the government and was not developer-initiated and developer-driven, the government didn’t use gag orders and didn’t need to. Perhaps the only real distinction between the use of eminent domain and use of the threat of eminent domain is the lack of political fingerprints and accountability when developers like Ratner and Columbia threaten eminent domain in conjunction with these objectionable gag order agreements.

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